As I write this now, I can see the Canadian geese flying across the spray-painted Denver sunset. I hear their wings clapping, and your paws galloping across the dirt. The pitter-patter sounds like a heartbeat.

Heartbeats are such funny things.

At the moment, I am running through every memory I have of you. Those memories are like snow globes. I am taking turns turning them upside down, letting the details float to their bottom. Flakes of white recollection falling slowly against my medial temporal lobe.

As I turn the snow globes over, I can’t help but remember the times you fell asleep on my chest and our heartbeats danced with each other. Two similar survivors of a different kind of abuse, snoozing as one. You know, I never thought that I would be writing a letter to a dog. Or to be more direct, I never thought that I would need to. Yet, In the wake of your passing, I feel the strongest of compulsions to offer up some of my words. However late they may be.

You were by no means a good looking beast, and I think you always knew that. The two brown eyes that lived on top of your smooshed face bulged out a bit. Sometimes in different directions. Your ears weren’t cropped, although we think somebody may have tried. Jowls, as macabre curtains of flesh, hung from beneath your nose. For a boxer, you were small for your size.

Your dad used to say that when figuring something’s cuteness, the scale works as a circle, and you were proof of that. This meaning, that once you go so far one way, you end up coming back around on the other side. Basically, you were so godawful you were cute. I don’t disagree with that sentiment.

Every now and again, there would be a stench that would arise from your ass that would make the paint of the house bleed. The other end, your breath, wasn’t much better. Abita, I am trying here but I cannot romanticize you. Perhaps, you don’t need to be.

I believe that some things in this hard life are not meant to be romanticized. One of those things not to be romanticized is home. To romanticize is to omit the imperfections, and imperfection is the foundation to any home.

Home should be exactly as it goddamned is.

There should be a grime on the floor boards that hasn’t been contested in years. Holes should should pepper the hallways where you were unafraid to hang pictures. The carpet should be worn from midnight dancing. Paint should accent the conversations, and the conversations should accent the love.

Home, for me, in those days was in Lakewood, Colorado. I lived with you, your mom, your dad, and two psychotic cats. There was a Beta fish named Drew as well, but we don’t really consider him a tenant. At least, I don’t.

While we lived in a townhouse, I will always think of it as mansion. There were alabaster columns of conversation that held up cedar headers of friendship. Throughout the halls the angelic chorus of laughter played on a loop. With the floors paved by loyalty, and the foundation built by something none of us understood, we danced over them both the same. The cheap whiskey we put down on the weekend was all single malt, and at least a thirty-five year. We’d add water to our box dinners, and eat like kings. There is a unique beauty to struggle that is found in the details. There is a mosaic of elegance if you’re willing to look it straight in the eye.

This, believe me, is not romanization.

When I came into your life, Abita, it was during the hardest years of mine. I was robbing Peter to pay Paul, and Paul was still leaving me voicemails daily threatening legal action. Nobody likes the delinquent account in collections. The title of “Drunk Driver” hung around my neck as I paid my dues to the state. Nobody likes a drunk driver. We met just a month or so after I seriously considered suicide. My mental state was fragile and maxed out. Fragile and maxed out in a way that haunts me to this day. Nobody likes suicide.

There are no illusions being cast, nor realities being altered. There is nothing in me that wants to pretend that you were a beautiful dog. Everyday, seemingly, back then was definitely a struggle. Most days I spent wishing that my entire situation was different. I am not romanticizing a goddamn thing. Don’t misunderstand my words.

Instead, now I can find the beauty of coming home to a house filled with souls that make the imperfections into affluence. All the snowflakes I see falling, Abita, are imperfections. It’s the imperfections that haunt my dreams, and make my heart understand what it means to long. I see the beauty of a dog that’s just happy you’re home.

Home has changed for me, once again. I am sure that it will change several more times before I am done here. While I have been away from you, I have found a girl who has promised to be with me from now on, and in any home. No matter how perfect or imperfect it may be. If we are lucky, that promise will multiply our name. If we are lucky, our imperfections will be combined and displayed on a tiny face or two.

I guess, with all this, I just wanted to say thank you one last time. There are many names, faces, and hands that I must thank for those days. Perhaps I will spend my life doing so individually. For now, however, I am addressing you, Abita. Thank you for liking me when I didn’t even like myself. Thank you for being a home to me. Thank you for all the memories like snow globes. I will be turning them upside down for a very long time. May you rest easy now, girl.

I hope Heaven has sunsets like Denver, and I hope you are chasing the geese across them.

-T.L. Schaefer

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